Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Night of 1,000 Sexes / Mil sexos tiene la noche (1984)

Despite there being a finite number of Jess Franco films, it virtually feels like I won’t ever run out of Franco movies to choose from, since there are so many (over 200) and from many different eras (from the ‘50s up to 2013). I’ve explored and hunted for Jess Franco films for close to a decade now and still have quite a journey ahead of me, which will probably only end for me if I ever lose interest. The selection pool is deep enough to be a lifelong endeavor, especially if you plan on really absorbing, studying, and digesting most of them. I’ve got my favorites that I return to when I can, but more frequently I always get an itch for a new one, but the list is long, which is equal parts comforting and overwhelming.

When it comes to the large selection of erotic Lina Romay featured Franco titles, it can be difficult to make a selection. You want something that goes beyond just lengthy porn scenes; you want something worth keeping, something that’s erotic but also dark, ethereal, metaphysical, with a dreamy ambiance, emotion, and artistic merit. Well, if you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re looking for a sweet Jess Franco and Lina Romay fix, the film I’m pulling out for you tonight, Night of 1,000 Sexes, will meet your demands.

Early on, I felt that ‘80s Jess Franco films tended to be a bit iffy at times, so I would mostly play it safe by staying in the comfort zone of Franco’s ‘60s and ‘70s output (I’m so terribly behind with the ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10s material), but there are treasures to be found in the ‘80s, such as Macumba Sexual, Sinfonia erotica, Faceless (I’m really curious about Bahia blanca), and I’m happy to add Night of 1,000 Sexes to the list of worthwhile ‘80s Franco. I’m having trouble deciding if it’s a masterpiece, but for me it felt like a return to a type of form that matches nicely with Succubus, Nightmares Come at Night, She Killed in Ecstasy, and Female Vampire.

It was filmed in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and in Costa del Sol, so as usual the evocative natural locales help to elevate the film beyond its super low budget. The music is by Jess Franco and Daniel White, whose hauntingly beautiful Female Vampire theme is brought back, which is something I’d normally gripe about, but it kind of feels appropriate here, with Lina playing another cursed killer, also named Irina, who deep down is actually a benevolent soul.

Irina is not a tragic vampire this time around but a performing medium of sorts. She and her partner, Fabian (Daniel Katz), have a traveling nightclub act in which Fabian blindfolds and hypnotizes Irina, and, upon asking, is able to have her describe any item someone from the audience might hand him. This would be pretty freaking cool to actually witness in a club, although I would probably remain skeptical myself and assume they had some sort of camera trick going on. It goes on a little long, but it’s a memorable segment and is also the film’s way of introducing a number of relevant faces (the dramatis personae?), some of which will show up later to have the special honor of being Lina Romay’s victims during Jess Franco’s brand of languid but hypnotic murder/sex scenes.

Later on during this 1,000 sexes night, before the killing starts, Fabian evades Irina’s affectionate bedtime advances, as he seems to be more interested in reading The Necronomicon instead of snuggling with her. He suggests they break up, because he’s apparently not happy living in her shadow. Or so he says, because he never really goes away. He and a witch princess of sorts, Lorna (Carmen Carrión), seem to have an agenda that involves metaphysically exploiting Irina.

The premise becomes similar to Nightmares Come at Night, with Irina usually on the brink of a mental breakdown from memories of having killed certain individuals without being entirely certain if it was a nightmare. Plus it becomes apparent that she is either mad or under someone’s mind control spell. In erotic dreams, an eerie voice chants in her ear (who I think sounds like Jess). She’s summoned by the evil sounding voice in her head to a sunny temple, where in a sort of catatonic/hypnotized state; Irina occasionally visits Lorna the witch princess, who enchants Irina with the warm and tender witch’s kiss on her forehead. Could it be a blessing or a curse? These scenes where Irina meets with Lorna are quite spiritual and in these instances Lina is usually seen in non-erotic, almost more religious, attire, and her performance is still captivating, especially when she’s passing through the dark set with the colorful stained glass window backdrop that reminds one of sleepwalking in a dream.

Lina is a skilled screamer, and she does let loose a couple times here with fits of soul piercing screams; think of the closeout to Macumba Sexual, but a lot more animated. There are also a couple of moments, that I like to think are self-referential, with Lina slowly walking towards the camera from a distance, evoking memories of a similar visual ten years prior in Female Vampire.

Although sex and murder make up the main platter, the film isn’t really all that pornographic, not nearly as much as Female Vampire, nor is it really all that violent. Irina does penetrate victims with a curved dagger, but it’s implied, off camera with no wounds, just a little blood on the blade and a good measure of jazz music. This may not be enough to really satisfy anyone looking for riveting, visceral kill scenes.

The murder scenes are still pretty remarkable, slowly playing out with a certain feeling of inebriation and languor. They could just hypnotize you to sleep if you are watching while tired after a long night at work. The best one takes place in a snazzy boudoir of sorts, where Irina, looking a little like an escort, visits the man from earlier at the nightclub who always has his two short-haired ladies with him. I’m imagining they are in some sort of three way relationship, sort of like Thom, Toni, and Laura from Messiah of Evil. When Irina arrives, the guy passes her a joint, and she looks quite apathetic in what is probably one of the most remembered scenes from this movie of Lina eerily staring off into space. A foursome ultimately plays out, where the unnerving sounds (including distorted moaning that I think is Lina and Jess), multiple camera angles, and visuals fuse into one hell of a fever dream. Lina owns this scene (in fact she own the entire movie), but you’ll also have a hard time forgetting those purple, white-striped couches.

One could argue that Night of 1000 Sexes doesn’t have the greatest wrap-up, although it does involve Jess Franco’s brief role as a psychiatrist, and I kind of like the two antagonists as well as the main idea of the story, however familiar for Franco, despite its conclusion seeming rather abrupt. In the end it’s the experience of the film that counts. I’m pretty sure none of it was filmed at night, although there is a good measure of dreamy day for night, like living life in blue. Lina is sometimes rocking the ‘80s hair, which can be hideous on others, but she pulls it off, although I’m not sure if it’s a wig; she’s known to wear wigs at times.

If it’s getting to be about that time when those warm, oneiric memories of Lina Romay resonating with Jess’s camera in some exotic, touristy locale start calling your name, than be sure to give Night of 1000 Sexes a look. 

© At the Mansion of Madness

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